Mr Spencer Victor Silverthorne

Spencer Victor Silverthorne

Mr Spencer Victor Silverthorne was born in Lobo, Middlesex, Ontario, Canada1 on 17 October 1876.

He was the youngest son of Daniel Silverthorne (1839-1928)2 and Elizabeth Johnson (1837-1881)3, both English-born migrants hailing from Dorset and London respectively and who had married in London on 22 October 1864 where their first two children were born; they appeared on the 1871 census as residents of 26 Upton Mews, Upton, Essex when his father was described as an outdoor officer for HM customs.

He had four brothers and one sister: Arthur Herbert S. (b. 1868), Bertie Augustus (1870-1933), Isabel L. A. (b. 1873)4, Ernest Lionel Vincent (1874-1966) and George Wesley (1879-1940).

Around the turn of the 1880s the family relocated from Canada to Greenville, Michigan. His mother died there on 25 October 1881 and his father was remarried on 10 November 1888 to Hannah Elizabeth Augercoine (1859-1944)5 of Pontiac, Michigan.

Through his father's second marriage Spencer had five half-siblings: Hugh D. (1891-1994), Katie L. (1893-1973, later Clark), Guy Alfred (1895-1961), Roy Fairchild (1898-1963) and Lucile Victoria (1901-1988, later Mrs Charles W. Merritt and Mrs Clifford VanOcker). 

Spencer appears on the 1880, 1894 and 1900 censuses with his family at an unspecified address in Greenville; on the latter record, he was described as a dry goods clerk. He later moved to Rochester, New York but returned to Montcalm, Michigan where on 28 April 1903 and described as a salesman he was married to Beulah Fowler (b. June 1877) of Greenville, daughter of W. J. Fowler and Harriet New.

The marriage between Spencer and Beulah remained childless; they settled in St Louis, Missouri where they appeared on the 1910 census as residents of Uon Versen Avenue in that city, with Silverthorne described as a department store merchant. 

He was a buyer for Nugent's department store of St Louis and was a frequent traveller across the Atlantic whilst on business; in March 1907 he was a passenger aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse whilst a year later in March 1908 he was a passenger aboard the Mauretania. In April 1909 he and his wife Beulah were passengers aboard the Celtic.

Silverthorne had been on a buying trip to Europe when he boarded the Titanic at  Southampton as a first class passenger (ticket number 17475 which cost £26, 5s, 9d and which he shared with Erik Lind) and he shared cabin E24 with Edward Calderhead.

When the collision occurred on 14 April 1912 Silverthorne was sitting in the first class smoking room reading Owen Wister's The Virginian. He immediately realised that the ship had struck something but his first idea was that it might be a whale or another ship, so he went outside to see what had happened. He claimed to have seen a giant iceberg passing astern and with chunks of ice falling from it. After seeing this he went inside and told the others in the saloon that the ship had hit an iceberg. No one thought much of the incident and everyone just went back to doing what they had been doing before the collision.

Shortly afterwards an officer came and told the men to go up on deck and get into the lifeboats. When Silverthorne arrived on the boat deck lifeboat 7 had already left and lifeboat 5 was about to lower away. When no more women could be found he was told to get into that boat, which he said he did reluctantly as he didn't want to go while women were still aboard. He later said: "Had we been in our rooms we would have had to stand aside, as the other men did then."

An obituary claimed that Silverthorne had actually gone to bed after the collision, only to be awakened by another buyer who told him the ship was sinking. The same obituary also claimed that Silverthorne "made his way to the bow and jumped into the dark, icy water. He swam vigorously away to avoid the suction at the ship went down. Then he reached a half-empty lifeboat and was taken aboard." In fact, Silverthorne was rescued with other first-class passengers in boat 5.

Silverthorne returned to his wife in America and continued to work for Nugent's. He became a widower when his wife Beulah died on 19 November 1913 and she was buried in Forest Home Cemetery in her native Montcalm, Michigan.

He continued to travel across the Atlantic frequently; once voyage was board Lusitania in April 1914 and on other voyages well into his advanced years. 

His 1920 passport states that he was travelling on business to Britain, France and Italy and would travel aboard the Lapland; he was described as standing at 6' and with a grey-balding high forehead, grey eyes, a long nose, a small moustache and of medium-fair complexion.

In 1924 he applied for another passport with the intent of travelling for business to Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Egypt. At that time he travelled aboard the Laconia. Another passport was obtained the following year for business trips to Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands. 

Silverthorne remarried around 1916 to Gertrude Odom (b. 12 May 1895), a Kentucky native; they moved to New York and had two children: Spencer Victor Jr (1917-1962) and Mary Elizabeth (b. 1920)6.

Gertrude Silverthorne

Gertrude Silverthorne in 1922

At the time of Silverthorne's 1918 WWI draft, he was described as a merchandiser for James H. McCreery & Co department store of New York and his address was given as 454 Riverside Drive, New York. The family moved to the affluent Scarsdale, Westchester, New York sometime prior to 1920 and appear on the 1930 and 1940s censuses as residents of 7 Colvin Road in Scarsdale where Spencer would live for the rest of his life.

After years of service, Silverthorne went on to become vice president of James H. McCreery & Co department store and president of the Donaldson department store in Minneapolis. He retired in 1935 and was also an employee of the Associated Dry Goods Corporation and of Allied Stores Inc. He lost his wife Gertrude when she died on 13 October 1954.

Spencer Silverthorne died on 17 May 1964 at his home at 7 Colvin Road, Scarsdale, New York. He was survived by a daughter, Mrs Elizabeth De Montanya, five grandchildren, and a brother. He was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester, New York. 



Spencer Victor Silverthorne birth record

Articles and Stories

New York Times (1964) 
New York Times (1964) 
Chicago Record-Herald (1912) 
Evanston Daily News (1912) 
Daily Northwestern (1912) 


Gavin Bell, UK
Mark A. Neels, USA
Vera R. Gillespie, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Thomas F. Nugent, USA


  1. He was shown on various censuses and at the time of his marriage in 1903 to give his birthplace as Canada. Various census records (and his passports) defied this and stated he was from Greenville, Michigan. His birth was recorded in Lobo, son of Daniel Silverthorn(e) and Elizabeth Johnson.
  2. Daniel Silverthorne; born in Dorset on 6 June 1839, son of Elijah Silverthorn(e) and Hannah (Anna) Stafford; died in Michigan on 12 April 1928.
  3. Elizabeth Johnson; born in Brixton, Surrey on 15 May 1837, daughter of Benjamin and Eliza Johnson; died in Michigan on 25 October 1881.
  4. Details about Isabel are ambiguous; reportedly born in Canada, she appears with her parents and siblings on the 1880 census in Michigan. It appears though that following her mother's death in 1881 she was adopted by family friends Fairchild and Martha Wright, the latter née Crooks, with whom she appears on the 1894 census, being described as their adopted daughter. She was married in 1897 to Hugh H. Harris and spent time in Chippewa, Michigan and Evanston, Illinois but had no known children. What became of her after 1910 is not clear.
  5. Hannah Elizabeth Augercoine; born 1859 in Pontiac, Michigan; died 29 April 1944 in Greenville. She was the daughter of E. Augercoine and Mariah Fowler.
  6. The 1930 and 1940 censuses show that Spencer had adopted a nephew, Mervin Clark Silverthorne (1921-1977, born in Kansas), possibly the son of his half-brother Guy.

References and Sources

Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Walter Lord (1986) The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 140 27900 8

Link and cite this biography

(2018) Spencer Victor Silverthorne Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #264, updated 14th March 2018 08:13:44 AM)

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